Surgical treatment of vulvar cancer: Impact of tumor-free margin distance on recurrence and survival. A multicentre cohort analysis from the francogyn study group

Eur J Surg Oncol. 2019 Nov;45(11):2109-2114. doi: 10.1016/j.ejso.2019.07.005. Epub 2019 Jul 3.


Objective: In vulvar cancer, it is admitted that tumor-free margin distance is one of the most important element for locoregional control. It is currently recommended to surgically remove the tumor with at least an 8 mm tumor-free margin. The aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of tumor-free margin distance on recurrence and survival in vulvar cancer.

Material and methods: From 2005 to 2016, 112 patients surgically treated for a vulvar squamous cell cancer were included in a retrospective multicenter study. Overall, disease-free and metastasis-free survivals were analyzed according to tumor-free margin distance.

Results: Patients were divided into three groups: group 1 (margin <3 mm, n = 47); group 2 (margin ≥3 mm to < 8 mm, n = 48) and group 3 (margin ≥8 mm, n = 17). During the study, 26,8% patients developed recurrence (n = 30) after a median of 8 months (1-69). Analysis of 5-year overall survival, as well as disease-free and metastasis-free survivals, did not reveal a difference between groups. We performed a subgroup analysis in patients with a tumor-free margin <8 mm (group 1 and 2). It showed that histological lesions observed closest to the edge of the specimen were more often invasive or in situ carcinoma lesions in group 1 than in group 2, in which VIN lesions were mainly observed at this location. After re-excision, no patients in group 1 and 50% (n = 2) patients in group 2 developed recurrence.

Conclusion: This study did not reveal a significant impact of tumor-free margin distance on recurrence and survival in vulvar cancer. Moreover, the benefit of re-excision seems stronger when tumor-free margins are positive or very close (<3 mm), cases in which invasive or in situ lesions are often present closest to the edge of the specimen.

Keywords: Recurrence; Survival; Tumor-free margin; Vulvar cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma in Situ / pathology
  • Carcinoma in Situ / surgery*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / epidemiology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / surgery*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • France / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Lymph Node Excision
  • Margins of Excision*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy
  • Survival Rate
  • Tumor Burden
  • Vulvar Lichen Sclerosus / epidemiology
  • Vulvar Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Vulvar Neoplasms / pathology
  • Vulvar Neoplasms / surgery*